State authorities have issued an ultimatum to the oldest cement manufacturer in California, amid growing concern over safety violations. The Lehigh quarry in Cupertino has 30 days to fix environmental and safety violations – first noted in 2006 – or it will no longer be qualified to supply government-funded projects.
Lehigh Southwest Cement Co of Cupertino, which produces half the cement used in the Bay Area each year, has until 20 August to resolve regulatory violations first noted in 2006 or it will be taken off a list of quarries qualified to sell products to government-funded projects, according to the state Office of Mine Reclamation. The line drawn in the gravel of this community of 58,000, about 70km south of San Francisco, divides a politically-connected mining operation founded in 1939 from a more recent crop of engineers, computer scientists and environmentalists concerned about pollution emitted from the quarry.
Lehigh officials insist the facilities are safe, in full compliance with state and county regulations, and outfitted with safeguards to reduce emissions of toxic pollutants, including mercury. They also warn that the state’s action threatens the continued operation of the quarry and the livelihoods of hundreds of people. Lehigh’s proposal to open a second quarry has been bitterly opposed by local residents who fear that it would add pollution to the atmosphere and water, reduce property values and diminish the quality of life.
The county had given the company until June 2012 to develop a reclamation plan that would resolve five-year-old violations, including failure to properly stabilise pit slopes, and conducting surface mining and dumping outside of designated boundary lines.